Kobe, Comic Con, and the Quest for First.

It’d be disingenuous of me to say I was a huge Kobe Bryant fan. I think he was a phenomenal athlete, but I mostly checked out of the NBA after the Sonics left Seattle, and have only checked back in over the past few years as Giannis has captured my attention. I’d put Kobe on the Mt Rushmore of all time great basketball players, but out of respect to those who are deeply mourning, I wouldn’t call my self a huge fan. So I was a little shocked at how hard the news of Kobe’s death hit me. Over the course of the day, as details came to light and I watched those who are huge fans mourn, my heart began to break for them. I lost my sports hero a few years back, and know that pain is real. 

When Kobe died, I immediately went back to the emotions of losing Tony Gwynn, which took me back to the emotions of losing my dad. Multiply that type of emotional train by millions of Kobe/Lakers/Basketball fans and yes, the death of Kobe Bryant is a catalytic moment for many to collectively mourn together.

I can’t really add anything to the conversation about who Kobe Bryant was. He was a fierce competitor, someone who never settled for second place, and was relentless in his pursuit of being the best. He is definitely someone to look up to, admire, and use as inspiration. From what I’ve read of his work ethic, nobody would outwork Kobe, and that is why he was a winner.

A few years ago me and a friend scored some free passes to Comic Con here in San Diego. It was an odd mix of people dressed up as characters that I’d never heard of, and booths and panels for shows and movies that’d I never knew existed. Me and my friend checked the schedule and the only event that looked remotely interesting was a panel for the Big Bang Theory. We both sporadically watched that show and thought it would be fun to be part of the crowds for the advanced screenings and sneak peeks that Comic Con is known for. As we walked into the room two giant hands grabbed our shoulders and pulled us back. Security asked what we were doing, and we told them the Big Bang Theory panel sounded cool. He pointed at the line out the door and around the convention center and said those thousands of people in line had the same idea. It was a line measured by blocks to see a glimpse of a few celebrities, and the first new scenes from the next season of the show.

Our culture thrives on being first. First to see the sneak preview, first to comment, first to arrive, first to… fill in the blank. We treasure first. 

I say this as someone who has spent the past two weeks with notifications set on my phone so that I can stay updated constantly with Padres trade rumors.

We want to be the first to know. And we want to be the first share.

Watching the Kobe Bryant story unfold over the course of Sunday was like living in a Twilight Zone episode premised on the dichotomy of being first in our culture. Somebody had inside information about a helicopter crash, and a notable name that may have been involved in that crash. They gave that info to a less-than-ethical news site who went on to release that info into the sphere of social media. Friends and family started receiving texts from people hearing this ‘news’. Fast forward to a family finding out about the death of their loved ones from an instagram post.

Picture this cycle: I see a car wreck on our street,  and I see Famous Person behind the wheel so I take a picture. I can sell that picture of Famous Person to a sketchy news outlet  and make some money, or I can post that pic to social media. Either way, that picture is out there and spreading fast. I calculated that my personal social media footprint could potentially reach 100,000 people within minutes with a reasonable conservative amount of reposting etc. 

Meanwhile, legitimate news sources are looking at this photo of Famous Person, and they have to decide wether or not to run with the story because nothing has been verified yet. If they wait, they run the risk of being irrelevant, but have the better chance of getting the facts straight. If they move on the story, they get the chance of ‘breaking’ the news, but they also run the risk of missing important details. In the end, we can see which news outlets choose which approach on which story.

Here’s a real scenario. Kobe’s helicopter crashes on 1/26/2020. On 1/26/2005 a Marine Corps CH53E Helicopter crashed, killing 30 Marines and 1 sailor. So people searching for ‘helicopter crash’ or related terms on that day get information about a crash from 15 years ago. In an effort to share that news first, and probably meaning well they repost the article to social media as breaking news. Only its not really breaking news at this point, its the anniversary of a historical event. On my personal feed, that story was posted 17 times by different people. My dad was a CH53E pilot, and that was his old squadron. I remember the crash well. So you can imagine the “Dear God not again” heartbreak that immediately sets in as I click on the headline. And then the subsequent halt and crash of adrenaline as I read the dateline of the story only to realize that this is not another deadly crash. The heart is pumping, the emotions are revving up, and I’m suddenly blindsided by another reminder of the passing of my dad.

I don’t share that to invoke sympathy, plenty of people were hurting more than I possibly could on that day. I say this as a means to pause.

Maybe we rethink what it means to be first.

On a day where we celebrate and mourn a man who went after being first the right way; hard work, high standards, and discipline, maybe we use those principles to hold ourselves accountable with our obsession with being first.

Is our first the result a product of hard work, or a need to cut corners?

Is our first training us to become a better person or does it tempt us to do the bare minimum?

Is our first the result of our identity, or the basis of our identity?

The Bible tells us there is wisdom in being ’slow to speak’. Jesus told us that “the first shall be last, and the last shall be first”. I think both of those verses have many applications, and this week gives us a prime example of how we can put into affect Godly wisdom. In an age of instant information, may we consider the benefits of not having to be first, especially when it means sacrificing our best.

Looking Forward.

[Post 3/3]

Last week we announced my transition from youth ministry into an Associate Pastor role at New Vintage Church. I’ve received a ton of great feedback, and plenty of questions about what exactly I’ll be doing from here on out.

The short answer is, whatever I can to help our church grow. 

I’m leaving that intentionally vague because one thing I have learned in my years of ministry is that we don’t always know the specifics of the trail, but that shouldn’t preclude us for climbing the mountain that God puts in front of us. 

One of the unique joys of ministry, is that we don’t always know what is in front of us. At least, we don’t know everything in front of us. There has always been a balance of the planned and unplanned, the routine and the extraordinary. As a person who regularly seeks adventure, but draws strength from a solid rock to jump off of, I couldn’t be more excited. 

Since day one at NVC, I’ve worked outside of youth ministry. At first it was out of necessity. We started with zero kids and I wanted to contribute to the team. As we have grown, I have always set aside some ministry horsepower for projects that don’t fall neatly into one area or another. I’ve done graphics, advertising, service projects, counseling, housekeeping, community relations, preached, organized events… the list goes on and on. My new role has a few tent pegs to give me a solid structure, and plenty of free space to engage whatever opportunities God brings our way.

My heart is drawn to helping every ministry at NVC creatively engage our community, and build the Kingdom. The developing plan is for me to take a few ministries under my mantle, develop them, hand them off, and repeat the process. 

I feel like God has allowed me to help build this amazing ship at NVC, and my next role will be helping it set sail on the open waters. I’m excited to take what I’ve learned so far, and use it to pour into the church that has given me so much. My hope has always been a lifetime in ministry, and being able to take this step is an answer to many prayers. 

On a personal level, I’m excited for the chance to push myself in new directions, to become a student of a broader nature, and build upon my foundation in ministry. It’s been a while since I’ve had to push myself this hard to learn, grow, humble myself, and lead. To say that I’m excited about that challenge is an understatement.

Thanks for showing interest in the journey, and thanks for all of the support so far. Seeing what God has done in my first 20 years of ministry has me confident that the next 20 years should be approached with eager anticipation.

One more analogy. A few years ago I heard Dallas Willard say, ”God’s grace is fuel for the soul, and the saint burns through God’s grace like a jet burns through fuel during takeoff”. I’ve always loved that quote, and I’m ready to burn through some fuel. 

Let’s go.

Thank You.

Thank You. [Post 2/3]

This past Sunday we made the announcement that I would be making the transition from Youth Pastor to Associate pastor at New Vintage Church. I co-led my first youth event 20 years ago, and accepted my first full time youth ministry position almost 15 years ago to the day. Over those two decades God has provided hundreds of people to pour into my life, build, encourage, and support me. Simply put, I owe so many of the blessings in my life to the people listed below. I thank God for each and every one of you, and if I forget anyone I apologize, I’m going to type until my fingers are sore.

John Austin Smith

Austin was my first youth minister. I fought to be a part of the youth group in 6th grade because he was such a challenging leader who always sought to bring out the best in us. His ministry tree spreads far and wide, without sacrificing depth in any way. He taught me that there was no depth too far to go when it comes to talking about faith with other, and there is no substitute for genuinely caring about others. To say that he is missed dearly is an understatement.

Dudley Chancey

For encouraging me to take more youth ministry classes in college, setting me up on a mission trip, practically dropping me off at my first internship, and being a constant source of inspiration and motivation. I don’t think anyone outside of my family saw ‘youth pastor’ in me quite as quickly as Dudley did, and I can’t think of anyone who did more to help me get started down that road. There’s probably hundreds of people that can say the same about Dudley, and he’ll be the first to tell you he’s just getting started.

The late Tony Alley

In maybe one of the most pivotal conversations in my life, Tony and I talked after one of my night classes for several hours. I confided in him that I didn’t feel like advertising was going to be my career path, and I had been bitten with the ministry bug. He said that there was no reason I couldn’t do both. It was like a light went off in my soul and I haven’t looked back. He then helped go to admin on my behalf to help me adjust my college course load to get as much Bible in there as possible. I was heartbroken when he passed due to a brain tumor, and pray every day he knows how much of an impact he made on my life. 

Mitch Wilburn

I ran into Mitch the first week of my senior year of college at the OC coffee shop. I told him that I was going to graduate with an art degree, but I wanted to get into youth ministry. I would have little experience, no degree, and was single, so I needed something to give me a good start. He immediately offered me a job for the next summer, and said I could stay on until I found a full time job. And that’s exactly what he did. Mitch might be the best storyteller out there. He may also be the kindest. He taught me how to treat people in ministry, and the importance of telling great stories to show God working in people’s lives. Another constant source of encouragement, Mitch has always been the person I knew I could count on for a kind, honest word.

Don and Donna Millican

I spent the better part of a year living in the room they added on to their house to provide a space for church interns. Without a doubt they are the most generous people I have ever met. Lord knows how many kids they have helped through school, through internships, through service. To say that they have blessed a ton of people is an understatement, and I consider it an honor to be on that long list of names.

Aaron Loney

Aaron was one of the youth ministers when I started at Park Plaza in Tulsa. He taught me about pacing myself, keeping a healthy balance of fun and seriousness. He also set a great example of what it means to be unwavering when it comes to living out the word. He is humble, so he might not get the attention that he deserves, but I couldn’t have asked for a better youth minister to intern under.

Luke Strong

Luke was the yin to Aaron’s yang. He also taught me to keep a healthy balance of fun and seriousness. Luke was the first person to force me to ask serious questions about pursuing youth ministry for a living, all the while pushing me out of the proverbial plane. God used him to speak one of the most important beliefs that I’ve held on to these past two decades; you need to go where you’re most needed to serve.

Jay Mack.

Jay showed me what it was like to put art into ministry, and ministry into art. This was an answer to a huge prayer, and something that still resonates daily with me. Hands down the most subtly cool person I’ve ever worked with. If it weren’t for Dan convincing me I needed to come out to work in SoCal, Jay would have been the one to keep me in Tulsa.

Jim Hinton

Hands down the most fun I’ve ever had in a church office. Jim has constantly been a source of joy and great encouragement. He couldn’t stop being a source of encouragement if he tried.

Randy Armstrong

Randy was the first Executive Pastor I worked with who understood that nerf gear was a line item in the youth budget. Randy taught me the importance of standing your ground and doing the right thing, even if it costs you dearly. He walked that fine line between friend, mentor, and fellow pastor. Randy also taught me the power of leading without being in front of the pack, and what it means to shoulder more than you can on your own. 

Matt Armstrong

Nobody will ever work harder, or serve more wholeheartedly than Matt. Matt was more than a roommate and friend, Matt has been a constant source of encouragement and joy. We’ve been through some of the toughest times together, but I’ve never had a bad day with Matt around. Any and every church should have a Matt Armstrong. 

Peter Wilson

Peter taught me the importance of worship, and why that should always be on the forefront of my ministry. We both came into our own at the same time, with parallel but very differing journeys. I’ve always laughed at how we can be so similar but so different. It’s proof that a mutual belief in God transcends so many other details.

Rudy Hagood.

Rudy defines presence for me. There is no doubt when Rudy is present in your life, and there is no doubting what Rudy is about. Rudy is about Jesus, and making disciples for Jesus. He taught me the power of using your presence to bring something meaningful others. The fun part, Rudy might have the most intimidating physical presence of anyone I know, but I can’t think of anyone more gentle with another person’s soul.

Tim Spivey

Tim saw potential in me when others didn’t, including myself. For the past ten years we’ve enjoyed pushing each other, butting heads, then grabbing lunch. I don’t know anyone who is so singularly focused on Kingdom work, and the pursuit of excellence in that work. We’ve spilled more blood together, been through more ups and downs, and have more ‘can you believe that’ moments than I can possibly count.

The SoCal Youth ministry Mafia

I would not have lasted two years (the national average) if it weren’t for this crew. This group has been a constant source of joy, encouragement, and learning. I’ve said it many times before, and still wholeheartedly believe that youth ministers simply cannot work alone, and need to be in community with others who know the joys and stresses of our line of work. I thank God for these men and women who have sacrificed so much because of their dedication to the Kingdom. Most are underpaid, many are undervalued, and all have been overworked at some point or another. But if you ask any of them they will tell you we have some of the most blessed lives imaginable, and all of them are unequivocally dedicated to helping students grow their faith.

Jack Williamson

The youth minister’s minister; Jack has energy to spare, and exemplifies what it means to be fueled by God’s grace. He is second to none when it comes to being able to immediately know what needs to be said. Wether its’ something fun and goofy to energize the room, or something deeply convicting, Jack never seems short for the right words.

Matt McMillon

Matt had that ability to go from 0-60 when it comes to fun, and then do a complete 180 and bring depth to any moment. Matt’s honesty and integrity, even during difficult times have set a high standard for me in my life, and I thank God for the times that we served together.

Trey Talley

Trey might be the funniest person I’ve ever met. He was also the spiritual barometer for our crew for a long run. Trey has never hesitated to hit the brakes on joking around so that we can ask the serious question about who God calls us to be. I’ve been blessed with many great friendships, few fill the soul like Trey.

Zac Luben

I don’t know anyone who is more dedicated to the pursuit of education than Zac. Combine that with a sharp sense of humor; Zac has been my go-to person for discussing challenging ideas, developing a love of deep theology, and a deep laugh. Zac has always had the strength to stand against the grain when needed, without sacrificing any integrity. 

Donny Goodwin

He won’t read this, and would probably say ‘meh’ to whatever I’d write, which is why he is still one of my favorite people. If there were any of my friends that I’d beg to write a book on faith, theology, or ministry, it’d be Donny.

Bryan Fojtasek

Anyone that knows Bryan, knows that he is probably the smartest person in any given room that he walks into. What a lot of people may miss is that he may also be the funniest person in any given room. Working with him behind the scenes on camp together gave me an insight how his mind works, it also gave me an insight into what it means to lead with integrity and humility.

Dusty Breeding

Dusty is the definition of what it means to be disciplined. It’s a trait that I don’t possess, so it’s one that I admire and respect. Another man who is not afraid to go against the grain, Dusty has that unique ability to reshape what others lift up. Dusty is also a man of actions over words, which gives an extra measure of clout to the conversations we have had over the years. He is a great leader, and phenomenal at developing the best in others.

Brenden Williamson

Our crew has watched Brenden grow from a teen into a vital part of the SoCal Youth Ministry community. You will not find anyone on our crew with more natural giftedness for ministry.

Lars Coburn

Lars is the next generation youth minister. He’s saavy, smart, and relentless in pursuit of taking a ‘live it out then preach it out’ approach to ministry. One of the comforts of stepping out of my role is knowing that guys like Lars are leading the next wave.

Garret Behrends

None of us wears their heart on their sleeves better than Garrett. He came into a tough spot following a great youth minister, and moving to SoCal from west Texas, and he has owned every moment of his time here. Garret has been a great example of how meekness is truly a gift of strength.

Ny church homes:

El Cajon Blvd Church of Christ

My first church home, the community that nurtured our young family when I was a kid, and provided a cornerstone for my parents faith, and set the bar very high for what it means for a church to be family.

Woodinville Church of Christ

I begrudgingly moved to Washington my freshmen year of High School. I went from an amazing youth ministry, to a church plant with a handful of other kids my age. It was tough for me, but our family was cared for in ways that still resonate today. So many people poured into my life during that time. I think they knew I needed to be surrounded by people who cared, and the Lord provided. When my dad became sick, Woodinville became a support system that is unrivaled to this day. Dad’s memorial tree is planted there, and I fondly look forward to any visit back to my home at Woodinville.

Weatherford Church of Christ

I never meant to spend a summer in Oklahoma but I thank God every day that I did. Twice. The first round in the smallest town I’ve ever lived in, with some of the nicest people. They offered me my first job, and were willing to wait for me to graduate a year later to come on full time. That message was the vote of confidence I needed to know that youth ministry wasn’t just a whim, but something to pursue. My heart broke when I told them that I felt like I should head back to SoCal instead of taking the job, but I knew they would find a great person that would be staying in Oklahoma for a long time and they did.

Simi Church of Christ

Simi was the first place in SoCal to take a chance on a would-be youth minister with no experience, no degree, and no wife. The holy trinity of not getting hired as a youth minister. Those four years provided the groundwork for so many lessons, and I thank God for the opportunity to cut my teeth there.

North County Church of Christ

This was the first place where I had students ask me to come be the youth pastor. It was also the church that helped me fall in love with my new home, and secure my desire to be a pastor in the San Diego area 

for the rest of my life.

New Vintage Church

Iv’e sacrificed for this Kingdom outpost from day one, and I’ve never regretted it. The friendships that have been made over the years, the stories that we have shared, and the mountains we have climbed together are without rival. To say that I am overjoyed to call this church home for years to come is an understatement. I thank God every day for the chance to serve alongside you, and look forward to how God is going to use this new position to bring a deeper understanding of how blessed we are to serve Him together.

And then there are people who deserve thanks, who’s influence and friendship have transcended ministry roles or titles:

Dan Henegar

You may have heard that Dan and I are friends. We are also brothers. I do not know of a better youth minister. Dan is a Godly man, a Christ-like leader, and a disciple of the highest caliber. I have never seen him waiver in his faith, or his dedication to serving the Lord.

James Tapper

When I read the Beatitudes in Matthew 5, I always think of James when I get to verse 8 where it reads, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God”. James is a man with a pure heart, and it is completely enveloped by a love and respect for the Lord. 

Travis Moore

Travis is an encourager, and a constant source of joy. Having friends that can speak the truth in love, and then throw a sly joke in the middle of the conversation are truly a blessing. Travis will be the first to admit that living a life of faith has not always been easy, but that honesty, vulnerability and experience has made his faith even more valuable to my life. Also, the man is a movie-quoting champ.

My cousin Kyle

This journey would not have happened without him. My place to vent, my voice of reason, and my source of many deep conversations, and a few bad ideas. I thank God for our time living together, and the many late night soul stirring moments over a good drink that we’ve enjoyed over the years.

The Henegar Family

My second family. The way that you have opened up your home and your family, and allowed me to walk as your own had been a blessing from the Lord over the years. In my toughest times, I found myself living in the Henegar house. The conversations with Dr and Mrs Henegar during those times were life changing, life giving, and Spirit filled. In addition, the blessing of growing up with three older ‘sisters’ has been a great source of joy over the years.

My Sister

My source of humility, joy, and encouragement. There is never lack of adventure with Sarah, or an awkward moment that passes unannounced. My constant source of Carpe Diem.

My Mom

Mom was the first youth minister I ever admired. She has always had a heart for teens, and a faith that doesn’t get the credit it deserves. Our house was never locked, our friends were always treated like family, and we were always the last to leave church after services. And I can’t begin to count how many people we’ve shared a Sunday lunch with because of mom. I may look like my dad, but I got my youth ministry from my mom.

My Dad

This thank you is going to stay between me and him for right now.

My beautiful bride Stacy.

I married the kindest person I’ve ever met. Watching Stacy minister to others constantly impresses me. Her genuine care for others, and her gentle spirit are admirable, and stand in stark contrast to how so many people treat each other. And those eyes…

I know there are others that deserve a note of thanks, and I look forward to handing those out in person. Most importantly, I thank God every day that He saved me, that He sustains me, and has given me so many great stories to fill my soul. I look forward to expanding those stories beyond youth ministry, and am excited for what God has in store for me and our family over the horizon. Escondido is home, New Vintage Church is family, and God has a lot of work for me to do, so I will wrap up with a thank you for reading this not-nearly-exhaustive-as-it-should-have-been list of thanks.

Passing The Baton.

[Post 1/3]

A few weeks ago at CIY, our summer camp, Jeff Walling who is a good friend to NVC, and one of my mentors pulled me, our associate youth Pastor Scotty Cowan, and one of our students on stage to help him with his sermon illustration. He had the four of us jog in place on stage like a track relay team, practicing passing the baton back and forth. Jeff asked us to be up there for 5 minutes, he kept us there for the whole 40 minute lesson. His sermon was about Elijah passing his role as a spiritual leader on to Elisha. It was a great sermon, and a great illustration that hit home on many levels. Elijah was a prophet for the people of Israel, but his time had come to transition on, and hand his ministry over to Elisha. It’s a great story, and my favorite part of the story is Elijah running alongside Elisha’s cart to help him get started.

It was a great sermon, and a great illustration that hit home on many levels.

A few years ago we asked Scotty Cowan to volunteer in the youth ministry. I knew him from some local youth events, and knew the reputation he had for his faith long before I knew the young man very well. It wasn’t long before we asked him to take the step up from volunteer to youth ministry intern. Over the past few years he has shown a great heart for ministry, so we asked him to increase his role and influence in the youth ministry and become associate pastor.

Because of this, the plan for the past few years has been that I would eventually transition into another role at NVC, and would pass the baton of Youth Pastor on to Scotty.

Yesterday was that day.

Scotty has shown himself to be a worthy leader, and we, the NVC staff, feel like this is a good time to make this transition. We are working diligently towards the move to our new building on Grand, and developing a deeper relationships with our community. Now is a great time to set pieces in play for the few years of opportunities that we feel God is bringing to NVC.

As of yesterday, Scotty has taken the helm of the youth ministry as Youth Pastor at New Vintage Church. My role will shift to Associate Pastor. I am excited for Scotty, I’m excited for the youth ministry, and I’m excited for me and my family. This opportunity will allow me to serve the church that I love in a broader capacity. I was part of the team that launched NVC, and have always had a ‘sleeves rolled up’ mentality when it comes to serving here. I am thrilled to further develop my role as pastor here, and look forward to helping a wider range of ministries grow and serve the Kingdom of God.

Me & Stacy and our boys are very thankful to call New Vintage home, and we are thankful for our time in youth ministry together. We are thankful for the way God has worked through youth ministry to bless our family. We are excited for the possibilities God may provide in this new role. God has blessed us beyond what we could have ever asked for, and we have the utmost confidence that He will continue to do the same as we switch gears in the way we serve His Kingdom.

I’m going to take a little while off from youth ministry events so that I can focus on my new role, and give Scotty room to develop as the leader. I will be continue to be a resource for Scotty as needed. My 20 years of youth ministry experience is at his disposal. And I will always champion youth ministry in our church, and our community.

I look forward to being a volunteer in the youth ministry. I’ve already told Scotty that if he ever gets stuck finding someone to stay in the jr boys cabin he knows who to call. More importantly, Stacy and I look forward to the day when our boys are in the youth ministry under Scotty’s lead.

Scotty, you have the baton. Run the race well.

Memorial Weekend.

This past weekend was a special time of remembrance for several reasons. On top of taking time to appreciate the soldiers who have given the ultimate sacrifice for this country, this past weekend was the memorial service for Sharon Henegar who was like a second mom to me, and the anniversary of the passing of Joe Bolger who was a friend from high school.

Mrs. Henegar is one of the most influential women in my life, outside of my own family. On multiple occasions, I have found myself living under the Henegar’s roof. When I was 16, I spent the summer living with the Henegars. I didn’t want to go back home to Washington at the end of summer, and despite my recklessness, and my getting into some serious trouble, she was willing to let me live in their house for the rest of my High School career. The only catch was I had to tell my parents everything I had done that summer. I opted to move back home, and that was the end of the discussion. A few years later I had been fired from my first job, and needed a place to live while I sorted life out. The Henegar’s once again opened their doors. I lived there for six months while applying for jobs, and ultimately finding what has been my current career path. During those times, and the many visits, Mrs Henegar was always a consistent, straight shooter with me. She was always lovingly on my case about finding a wife and getting married, staying out of trouble, and taking my troubles before the Lord. She is the person that comes to mind when I read the verse out of the Bible that calls us to, “speak the truth in love.” Mrs. Henegar always spoke truth into my life, and I know that she did so out of a love for Christ and me. The best part of this story is that it is in no way unique; Mrs Henegar treated everyone with this level of respect and love.

I was proud to introduce her to Stacy, and was equally proud to witness her holding both of my sons over the past couple years. Those are memories I will always cherish, along with our long discussions during great times of ‘sorting my life out’. I will also miss her eyeroll and “Oh Brother” when Dan and I start quoting Three Amigos. Most of all, I will miss her kind words of Godly wisdom.

Joe Bolger was a classmate of mine from High School. He was one of the first friends I met when I moved up to Washington in 9th grade. I’ve written before about the difficulty I had making that move, which makes the kindness of Joe stand out in a much brighter light. Joe was the only friend that first year to invite me over. He would sit next to me on the bus when no one else would, he would warm up with me on the baseball team, and he would make his way across the lunch room to eat with me when I was alone. Joe had a deep faith, and knew that I was someone in need. I think of him when I hear the Bible verse that says, “whatever you did for the least of these, you did for me.” At a time when I felt like ‘the least’, Joe was there.

As the years went on and I made more friends, I saw Joe less and less. He became another friendly face in the hall. I was at a Memorial Day Church picnic at the end of my Junior year when I heard the news that Joe had passed during a boxing match. We hadn’t talked in a while, which I will always regret. But I take solace in knowing that God had put him there in my life exactly when I needed him.

The value of remembering those we have lost comes from being thankful for what who we were given. Mrs Henegar was a mighty warrior for the Lord, Joe was a faithful servant, and so many soldiers have been our guardians. I am thankful for all three.

When it comes to how we remember those we have lost, I think the best way to show our respect is to honor what the person valued. For our soldiers I think that means living a life worthy of freedom. For Mrs Henegar and Joe Bolger, I think that means following the Jesus Christ that they loved so dearly.